Want to Keep Your Millennials — Mentor Them

Written with Bridget McKeogh

There seems to be a profound disconnect in the workforce between Millennials (1984 – 2012), Generation Xers (1965 – 1983), Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964) and Greatest Generation/Traditionalists (1930 – 1946). The complaints are rampant.

But there is also something pretty clear across the board that we can all own. Every Gallup study shows that the overall workforce is disengaged to some extent. Yes, that means you or someone who works in close proximity to you is likely counting the minutes to five pm. Last week Gallup reported that the U.S employee engagement average for November was 32.1%.  That’s one out of every three people! And the number ticks up higher the older you are. In 2014 Gallup reported Traditionalists have 42.2% engagement, 32.7% for Baby boomers, 32.2% for Generation X, and just 28.9% of Millennials report that they are engaged at work.

By 2020, Millennials will become the largest generation in the workforce.

Millennials tend to frustrate corporate America with a sense of ‘entitlement.’  It is widely viewed that they are ‘coddled’ by their Baby Boomer parents, told they could be anything, not willing to pay their dues.  One friend, an entrepreneur Julie Beck, shared how she had been so ‘Millennialed’ this year, she even coined the phrase. Two Millennials transitioned in unprofessional manners, one by a text message! Don’t they care about having a positive reference? Millennials tend to stay in jobs for under two years and don’t seem as motivated by the career track, raises and other incentives that are the mainstay of corporate America.

Over the past few years, I have seen and worked with a great number of Millennials and observed the lack of mentoring the ‘older’ generations are offering them. Why are we not investing? Are we threatened by their confidence, desire to lead? Given our own low engagement scores in the workplace, have we become too cranky?

But let’s go deeper into the issues, the problems, and mentoring as part of the solution to train and retain our newer and high-potential talent:

According to a key study by Intelligence Group (a division of the Creative Artist Agency), we get some keen insight:

72% of Millennials would like to be their own boss, but if they have to work for a boss, 79% would want that boss to serve more as a coach or a mentor.  The study also shows that 88% of Millennials prefer a collaborative culture over a competitive culture and they are looking to make a difference in their professional lives. I think of Millennials often as the ‘purpose generation’.

As the workforce shifts, our society is challenged in finding enough STEM talent. STEM talent refers to skills needed for almost every job (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). For example, there are millions of unfilled jobs that require STEM skills and STEM jobs tend to pay better (@40% so it’s a much clearer pathway to the middle class and arguably, the American Dream).

Goldman Sachs is among the first to publically put some big cards on the table publicly. On the front page of the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, they asked their Millennials to stay and promised that things will improve by offering clearer paths to promotions, experiences in different banking environments and mandating “No Work Saturdays”.

Another solution: creating Mentoring Cultures. This is what we focus on around the clock at Twomentor, LLC. Aligning mentoring to the whole fabric of the company, and part of people’s performance reviews. PGi released a study that dove into the millennial mindset. Of those millennials surveryed, 71% stated that they wanted meaningful connections at work and hope to find a “second family” in their coworkers. Additionally, 75% not only want mentors, but deem it crucial for success. In the same survey, 70% of non-millennials say they are open to reverse mentoring. They acknowledge that 20-somethings have first-hand knowledge of social media and other technical practices and older employees want to learn! A majority of Millennials sited “not a good cultural fit” as a reason they left their job in the first three years. To retain the new majority in the workforce, companies need to align culture more to Millennial needs, and perhaps all of our needs to have more meaningful support and connection at work.

AN ECONOMIC BURDEN

Each time you lose someone good, you lose time and money. Forbes reported that the average cost to replace a millennial is 15k-25k. Goldman Sachs isn’t trying to retain Millennials solely out of the goodness of their hearts, retention is a significant economic issue. It’s good for business. Companies pour significant money into recruitment but programing around development and retention is given less attention and some of the behavior patterns of Millennials reflects that.

So bottom line, It’s time to get the human back in human capital.

Companies are made up of human beings not human doings, and an engaged workforce = ROI for the company and the people who make up the company.

The business case for mentoring is so strong that in a Wharton study, people who mentor got promoted 6x more than people who didn’t and mentees were promoted 5x more. …And retention was 20% higher in both groups five years later- YEAH, that’s what we are talking about! Most companies have informal mentoring programs or aspirations, if you want to capture ROI, look at metrics that can be captured- after all, you get what you measure.

The way we see it, there is no downside to mentoring. Mentors and mentees are more engaged and better positioned for advancement. Engagement equals retention and retention saves time and money. Put in a little time and effort now, to save big headaches later. What is there to lose?

Mentoring Culture is Good for Business

“I am leaving my company,” Bridgette, a very senior executive told us.

“We just don’t have a mentoring culture.”

In this world of GO, GO, GO productivity and massive technology dependence (or can I boldly go ahead and say, addiction), it becomes harder for people to take out time for each other. The ROI, the business case for mentoring is also not always clear to industry (ie. is it good? vs. is it good for business?)

“I just started here, and no one can explain to me how to use our Microsoft Lync platform.”

“I don’t know what I am being measured on and the other interns don’t either. I came here for experience.”

“I haven’t spoke to my hiring manager yet and its been 10 days.”

“Our girls need role models of women in IT.”

Concerns such as lack of time, lack of formal programming at the company, belief that one doesn’t have the skills to be a professional mentor are often cited for not engaging or saying “no” to this important role.

But the process of mentoring can be a great asset to the company. Both good for the people involved and good for the company.

In one Gartner/Wharton study, employees who mentored were promoted six times more often than their peers who did not mentor; mentees were promoted five times more; 25 percent of employees who mentor received a salary grade change in comparison to 5 percent of employees who didn’t. Lastly, employees who participated in a mentoring program had a retention rate 20 percent higher than those who did not mentor, and over 68 percent of mentors and mentees stayed at the company after five years.

Experiential learning is where it’s at. It’s one thing to hear about the world of work, it’s another thing to be swimming without a life vest in what feels like shark infested waters. A mentor can help their mentee enjoy the swim, dodge the jellyfish, jump up on a Jet Ski, and experience how not to just survive but thrive in a new career. Do you remember your first swim? Did someone champion you and help you navigate?

With the “I don’t have time to mentor,” concern. I can relate. This is why I am a big fan of internships and job-shadowing. I mentor about a dozen young men and women and feel our interns in the office get my best and more time. Short coffee breaks here and there work. Sure, we can sit in the conference room for 30 minutes after the staff meeting and go over your action plan for the week, vision and troubleshoot an area you are challenged.

Brandon Busteed at Gallup said “Mentor Duty is the new Jury Duty,” and also taught us that there is a big big (actually huge) divide between how prepared college Presidents believe their students are for work and how corporate leaders feel.

I do believe it’s our civic duty to teach, mentor and hopefully sponsor when interns come to learn. Online mentoring coupled with face-to-face works too. Thanks to our visionary CEO we hire many of these interns as part of an on-boarding strategy and we are able to test drive talent to see if a good fit for our company and culture.

And by the way, they reverse mentor me on collaboration, technology, use of social networks and so much more.

YOLO. JUST DO IT. Start now with just 30 minutes a week. I don’t know how else to put it, we all want to work for a company that has a mentoring/coaching culture. Those companies will retain their workforces significantly more.

In a non-mentoring environment people tend to swim in fear, visualize the fins around, likely want to leave, or worse join the silent majority who are not engaged in their work and drift through their days. That is not good for business.

Julie Kantor is the CEO of Twomentor, LLC. Follow her @JulieKantorSTEM She writes ongoing blogs on STEM, Entrepreneurship, Education and Technology for Huffington Post HERE

A Resource to help you get started . Here is an action guide geared toward mentoring in areas of Science, Technology Engineering and Math.

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